Alan Turing : The Enigma, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


A new edition to celebrate Alan Turing's centenary, includes a new foreword by the author and a preface by Douglas Hofstadter.

Alan Turing was the extraordinary Cambridge mathematician who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma ciphers and transformed the Second World War.

But his vision went far beyond this crucial achievement.

Before the war he had formulated the concept of the universal machine, and in 1945 he turned this into the first design for a digital computer.

Turing's far-sighted plans for the digital era forged ahead into a vision for Artificial Intelligence.

However, in 1952 his homosexuality rendered him a criminal and he was subjected to humiliating treatment.

In 1954, aged 41, Alan Turing committed suicide and one of Britain's greatest scientific minds was lost.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 768 pages, 1
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: general
  • ISBN: 9780099116417



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

An excellent biography of Alan Turing.

Review by

A fascinating, detailed biography of a hugely important but largely unknown figure.I mean all I knew about Alan Turning was his legacy in computer science but he was much more than that.He started life as a mathematician then WWII directed him into cryptanalysis (the infamous Enigma machine), afterwards he worked on the 1st computer and lastly became fascinated with mathematical biology. Always a genius he was also an outsider, partly due to his homosexuality which was illegal at the time and was a suggested cause behind his probable suicide at the age of 42.Alan Turing did not leave much for a biographer and this book deals mostly with his large body of work. This was a bit of a problem for me as I am extremely bad at understanding maths and I felt the theories were not explained terribly well. If you do have a basic understanding you should be fine but otherwise you may want to think twice (although I found it easier once the work moved into cryptanalysis). I also found the book quite dry, especially during Turing's school days (reading books by George Orwell, whom he references, helps bring it alive) but as it progresses this matters less and less as his life becomes much more interesting.One nice thing is that the author spends much of the time putting Turing's life in context so we also learn such things as the politics behind Enigma, the race to create the 1st computer and the social climate surrounding homosexuality during the time of his death.Lastly it was written in 1983 (updated in 1990) but I don't think this has much impact as the UK government is still withholding information. I did find it interesting thinking how far science has come since the book was written, let alone since Alan Turing's time! All in all I would recommend this for anyone interested in Alan Turning or the history of computing (I know there are many separate books on Enigma).

Review by

This review is of the audiobook read by Gordon Griffin. This is a long listen at just over 30 hours and I imagine a rather different experience from reading. I mention this specifically because there is a fair amount of mathematical theory; "do you understand all this" enquired my wife at one point, "no", I replied, "but it's easier to listen to than to read, because I can drift". However I suspect if you were interested in the maths, then the book would be more desirable.Inevitably an audiobook is more of a performance, some even now top and tail with music, so the voice is key to a comfortable and comprehensible experience. Gordon Griffin, does all the voices, his Churchill is ok, and any number of others, though his impression of Turing as a child grated with me.The book is fascinating, showing with great clarity the intellectual and political infrastructures changing under the pressures of war, then post-war cultural changes, partly driven by the work of Kinsey and partly through the fear of homosexuals as a threat to national security, particularly in the light of the Burgess and Maclean scandal. He is also clear about the 'special relationship' and the shifts in the political and intelligence balances with the USA.Alan Turing comes across as a key figure in the allied victory, his position post war buffeted by the visicitudes of the slow to change establishment mores. The hypotheses around the cause of Turing's suicide is well argued, though open enough to allow other conjectures, but I doubt any definitive answer will emerge, even when those classified files are declassified, a shift that would have intrigued Turing himself.